Trumps Misadventures At Election Reform Threatens Democracy

07/07/2017 03:24 pm ET Updated Jul 09, 2017
Voters flock to the polls in Ohio during the 2016 presidential election. President Trump's election commission is requesting voter information from the states. (AP Photo / John Minchillo)

BOSTON — The Trump administration Thursday assured American voters once again of its outright desire to disassemble democracy rather than defend it. Clearly, Trump is less interested in saving the republic than he is in employing subterfuge to sabotage it.

The Washington Post this week reported that Trump wants keep the voting records of all Americans in a White House cyber vault as a part of his fake efforts at restoring the presidential election process. Following his election last November Trump told congressional leaders he was robbed by more than 3 million votes cast by illegal immigrants who supported Hillary Clinton. Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton, but won the electoral college count.

Trump’s ludicrous proposal comes after members of the recently created Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity requested from all states the voting data of its residents. Among the requested data was information including social security numbers, party affiliation and election participation histories dating back more than ten years. Trump says he simply wants to conduct “a thorough review of registration and voting issues in federal elections,” even though experts have confirmed voting fraud is rare in presidential elections.

So, of course the request from the commission to the states has been met with backlash. Nearly 30 states have rejected the commission’s request, repudiating it as government overreach and intrusion on voter privacy.

“No information has been released nor will any information be released that is not publicly available or does not follow the appropriate legal process for information requests,” said Robert Giles, the director of New Jersey’s division of elections on NJ.com last week. The New Hampshire ACLU and bi-partisan lawmakers announced last week they are suing the Trump administration over the request.

The presidential election kerffule is further dramatized with the recent announcement that vice president Mike Pence will be in charge of the national voter file the commission plans to create. That means Pence, who will likely run for re-election for vice president in 2020, (that is if his boss decides not to seek re-election, and Pence himself becomes the republican frontrunner for president) is designated to oversee and access all voting data. That would put democrats at a serious disadvantage if republicans deigned to misuse their sole access to the data files.

Making Pence a national co-election Czar will likely erode the trust of voters who overwhelmingly abide by election rules already in place in each individual state. Moreover, voters in each of the major parties will balk if control of election information switches from one party to the next depending on which party wins the White House during any given election cycle. Partisan control of election files invites dissaster. Independent oversight of voter data is the pragmatic solution.

Trump is right, however, about improving the country’s voting process of electing the president. But for the wrong demonstrable reasons. For Trump, pure political machination undergirds his methods.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is President Trump's co-chair of the commission on election fraud. Vice President Mike Pence also guides the commission. (Orlin Wagner / Associated Press)

The reforms needed are clear: Elections in the U.S. should be a nationally coordinated event. Currently the election for president occurs as 50 individual events across the states. That clumsiness should be corrected by federalizing presidential elections that would include oversight with clear rules and universally shared procedures -- including the use of a single, uniform vote counting process that utilizes a standardized voting machine. A single national voter profile should also be implemented and protected by impenetrable cyber protection systems such as those that secure NASA or IRS data.

Such revamping should also include using a federal voter registration form across all states that are published in the various languages that make-up the nation’s diversity. And just as important, federal elections should be held on a newly created holiday that will allow voters from all walks of life to participate without the impediments of work or school schedules. The Why Tuesday? organization makes a singularly powerful and cogent argument for this sort of change.

What’s clear is that the Trump administration wants to implement a misguided approach to modernizing the election process. The administration’s misadventures are transparently sinister, intended to highjack voter consent and the integrity of the process. That’s unfortunate as Trump stoops to the lowest forms of civic cynicism.

Aristotle, the ancient political theorist, rightfully tagged humans as distinctive “political animals” because they are desirous of debate as a means of domesticating social chaos. Indeed, the modern domestication of communal conflict has led to complex, ameliorative constitutional arrangements wherein institutional democracy and its innovations have flourished.

Trump leads the most ingenious system of democracy so far known to humanity. But all he seems to want is to reduce our civic culture into a form of electoral pabulum.

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